Tips From A Therapist: How To Do A Mental Health Day Right

How To Do A Mental Health Day Right

March 27, 2021 Updated March 28, 2021

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I’ve been really irritated lately. My boyfriend has noticed, my kids have noticed, and my body has noticed. After apologizing about my behavior and being so snappy (for the second time) to my kids (in front of my boyfriend) my boyfriend told me he thought I was doing too much and I needed to take a day for myself.

It took a week or so, but I made it happen. My mental-health day was going to be attitude-changing and I’d suddenly feel like my old self again.

But that’s not what happened. You want to know what I did to improve my mental health? I bet you already know where this is headed, because mom-brains can read mom-brains and I know you do the same thing.

I ended up getting out of bed a lot earlier than normal because I had so much I was going to tackle during this mental health day of mine. After getting in a run and rushing through my shower, I dropped off my tax papers. I was so relieved that it was done, but then I made a trip to the grocery store to get a week’s worth of groceries for four people. 

On my way back to the car, I saw how dirty and disgusting it looked and took it through the car wash, then pulled up to the vacuums to get the sandbox out of my car. (And all the damn fast food wrappers.)

I rushed home to get the groceries into the refrigerator before the ice cream started to melt and realized I forgot the package of sushi I said I was going to get myself for lunch.

It was already past noon, and I didn’t feel like this was a mental health day in the least.

I ran the vacuum and told myself that would be it. For the rest of the day I would watch the Hallmark Channel and just relax.

Just as I laid down on the sofa, my phone pinged with a message from my son’s teacher, my ex-husband called to talk about our son’s upcoming graduation, and I remembered my daughter had an orthodontist appointment.

This is not how you do a mental health day, folks. In fact, my mental health was worse after my poor planning because I felt like I’d lost a day of work and definitely wasn’t relaxed or refreshed. I didn’t plan, and I certainly didn’t think about what I truly needed in order to get back on track.

Scary Mommy touched base with Tess Brigham, a therapist, life coach, and a mother. Brigham offered some great tips on how to do a mental health day right. So listen up. 

The first order of business is asking yourself what you need the most. It doesn’t matter what it is; pay attention to it. Maybe it’s a day reading. Perhaps you want an uninterrupted day to do some spring cleaning because you know it’s going to have a positive impact on your life. 

“While it may seem like taking a long bath or reading a good book is a ‘good self-care thing to do’ if it isn’t what you want or need — don’t do it! We all have different ideas of the perfect vacation, perfect partner, ideal dinner, which means you get to define what is ‘self-care’ for you,” says Brigham.

Having time for yourself is so precious — especially now — so the time needs to be spent doing things you want to do and not what you think you should be doing. “If you end up doing that as opposed to laying in bed all day, reading and watching Netflix because that seems ‘too indulgent’ or lazy you’ll just feel resentful and even more fatigued,” Brigham warns.

Plan ahead if you can. Start thinking about what you need a few days before you take your mental health day and make some plans. “Remember, if you haven’t thought about yourself or your needs in a long time, it might take you several days to really pinpoint what you want,” says Brigham. 

Once you start to have some ideas, put some plans into place, but don’t overschedule yourself. This could lead to your running around like a turkey and completely defeating the whole purpose.

Then you’re worse off than when you started, and you’ll need a whole lot more than a day to catch up.

If you simply cannot plan a whole day right now, there is something you can do if you are feeling burned out. Brigham suggests looking at your calendar and asking yourself what you need each day. She says, “If you know exercise helps your stress and makes you feel good, schedule in several exercise sessions in your week. If you need more sleep, schedule in a few naps. If you need a little bit of everything, schedule it all in.”

I have to say, since my mental-health-day-gone-bad, I’ve been doing this. I know I am better if I do a little something for myself each day. Whether it’s painting my toenails, ordering some new perfume, or watching HGTV every day after work and serving dinner in front of the television, these small things are working. 

Remember: you are worth it. So, take the time and energy needed to plan an effective mental health day.